As someone who’s generally in favor of social media, I was thrilled to discover this week what Wikipedia really is good for: reading about television shows.

I’m asked now and then whether Wikipedia hasn’t hurt my business, by people who lean close and say, apologetically, that they hear it isn’t very good. I don’t know whether it’s hurt our business, but what really intrigues me is the fanatical zeal some people feel about wiki-izing information. Sheer anti-establishment feeling, as far as I can tell: “Who are those academics to tell us what’s what?” And it’s not just anti-intellectuals. Someone quite intelligent and sophisticated once asked me, “Why do you have so many academics contributing?” I don’t know who he thought I should ask to write about human-computer interaction or world history.

But anyone can write about a TV show, and wikis are much better than forums or those online reviews where one dumb person after another misinterprets the plot of a movie. Wikis are great for shared information about a TV show because viewers all have an interest in accurate information; there’s little reason I know of for someone to “spin” the story. And it’s simply extraordinary (to me, anyhow) to see just what vast amounts of information people do contribute on, for example, the TV series “24,” which Rachel and I now watch together.

We actually went so far as to start watching season one on Netflix. The show goes on and on and on–24 hours a season, and there have been six seasons–and the plot is convoluted to the point that I don’t know how anyone manages to summarize it (but they do, they do). I wanted to find out what happens and soon discovered that all the past episodes are detailed on Wikipedia, and, even better, there are biographies of all the characters (not the actors, the characters–there’s one called George Mason, and the entry has a cross-reference, “This article is about the television character. For the US patriot, see . . . .”).



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